Now Playing at the Museum & Theatre: Santa’s Reindeer Present: The Nutcracker!

A Note from the Director:

Every year, we reindeer put on a variety show before loading up the sleigh. The stage summons our magic, surges our energy and brings us together. Vixen does card tricks. Comet tells jokes. Donner recites ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.When Dancer and Prancer are getting along, they usually do a tap routine. This year, I challenged my crew to explore something different. If we can pull a heavy sleigh, we can put on a whole play! We can use our reindeer magic to play timeless characters with our hooves and with our hearts. This year’s play? The Nutcracker! A ballet, a symphony, and now… a realistic drama, told reindeer style!

We beg you to imagine yourself in St. Petersburg, Russia, 1892, in the small workshop of a toymaker named Drosselmeyer. Not just a toymaker, Drosselmeyer is also a clock maker and a mouse catcher. On Christmas Eve, his nephew, a young prince, comes to visit. But lo and behold – before Drosselmeyer’s one good eye an evil sorcerer turns his nephew into… a NUTCRACKER! To become human again, the Nutcracker must defeat the Mouse King, travel to far off lands, and fall in love with a beautiful maiden. Impossible? Not if you find yourself in a child’s dream! Drosselmeyer the Toymaker gives the Nutcracker to a young girl named Clara, in hopes that she will help the Nutcracker complete his tasks to be human again.

Join us for this reindeer tail of magic and wonder. Only magical flying reindeer can write, dance, choreograph and stage as complex a yarn as The Nutcracker. We’ve worked hard on these weeks leading up to Christmas. Without these elves Maud, Eli and Murray taking time off from building toys, the play would never be possible. Thank you Dasher, for keeping us on track as the Stage Manager. Thank you for coming, you elves and reindeer in the audience. Happy holidays and enjoy the show!

Your Esteemed Director,

Rudy the Red

Leah as Rudolph, director of the Nutcracker!

Leah as Rudolph, director of the Nutcracker!


Interested in seeing the show? Click here, call 1-800-838-3006, or stop by the front desk during your next visit to get tickets!

Now Playing at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine: The Witches!

Reba as a Witch

Theatre Director, Reba Short, joining in the witchy fun!

“Oh, is my tongue blue?” Here’s what our Theatre Artistic Director and director of our production of The Witches has to say about the play… Want to see more? Get your tickets to The Witches here and for our own special interactive adaptation of the story for preschool ages, How to Spot a Witch, here!

From the Artistic Director, Reba Short:

Why would a theatre company produce The Witches anyway? The themes are dark, the images are gruesome; for goodness’ sake, there’s a chorus of witches talking about crunching children’s bones! The Grandmother in the story seems alright, but she’s smoking black cigars! How could this possibly be a children’s play? Has the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine lost all its good sense?!

 

As Theatre Artistic Director, I say not in the least! We are producing the work of Roald Dahl, hailed as one of the greatest storytellers of the 20th century. He received the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 1983, and Children’s Author of the Year from the British Book Awards in 1990. The themes in Dahl’s books are so dark, they’re funny. The witches are so terrible, they’re loveable. The plots are so preposterous, they can’t be serious, and they aren’t, at all. That’s Dahl’s magic as a storyteller. He pushes the boundaries of his make-believe world to its furthest corners, and then keeps pushing. His imagination goes to dark and wild places, and he invites the young reader with him and counts on them to know what is fantasy. Today we are asking the same of you, our audience. Join us for this wild and awful annual convention of witches and know that it’s just pretend.

My favorite part of Roald Dahl’s books are his heroes. Always unlikely, they may seem weak at first. They are usually children who use courage and cleverness to become strong. In our play, it’s a small-boy-turned-mouse that receives the call to adventure. (It would be impossible to find a smaller hero!) If the witchy plot wasn’t so awful, it wouldn’t be necessary for the boy-mouse to save the children at all. This is a story that begs the audience not to take it too seriously, but to find inspiration in the acts of courage and magical ways that the even small heroes can save the world.

Sneak Peek at The Rabbit Who Wanted Red Wings

Michela is always in character!

After stage managing The Emperor’s New Clothes this past winter, I was really excited to sit in on Tuesday’s rehearsal of The Rabbit Who Wanted Red Wings. It was a chance to see some of the actors I knew and meet some new faces! When I came in, Michela and Sheena (who played Empress Sophie and Theodore in The Emperor’s New Clothes, respectively) were in the middle of a scene. I sat down and watched them in action. It was amazing to see them play characters that are so different from the ones they played in The Emperor’s New Clothes. Michela was hopping around the stage playing Little Rabbit and Sheena was quite a sassy and funny Real Girl (and she has such a beautiful singing voice!)

"You can see the food. You can taste it!"

As the rehearsal went on, I saw the actors transform into a forest of animals. Everyone had their own way of becoming their character that I knew right away what animal they were portraying. But I know from experience that it’s always tricky staying in character, especially when you have so many things to think about. Every moment you’re onstage you have to think: if I were a duck, what would I be doing right now? But that’s where Reba comes in! She let the actors explore their characters, but if they get stuck she always is there is give them guidance, suggestions or real-world examples of how a character might react to something. Little Rabbit’s new red wings were related to a changed hairdo, eyebrow waxing and a squid backpack—all examples given by other cast members!

Reba asked the cast members to act like scared squirrels. Pretty convincing!

I’ve been doing theatre since I was 10 years old, so I know how exciting the rehearsal process can be. This is the time for actors to make bold choices, become friends with their fellow cast members and learn news things about themselves and their character. The cast of The Rabbit Who Wanted Red Wings has a few weeks of rehearsal left and from what I saw they are doing a fantastic job. I can’t wait to see the final product!

Tickets are on sale now! To buy tickets visit our website, call 828-1234 x231 or stop by the front desk!  The play runs Thursday-Sunday from April 22 – May 2. Thursday and Friday performances are at 4pm and Saturday and Sunday performances are at 1pm & 4pm.

Let your child take the stage!

Whether your child is a natural actor or a wallflower, creative play and theatre activities will inspire your whole family to play together.  The benefits of introducing your child to dramatic play at an early age are numerous.  Dramatic play improves cognitive development, social skills, communication, motor skills and emotional development. Young children have vibrant and  active imaginations;  do you play a role in your child’s imagination games?  You can!

Begin with your favorite book.  Read it out loud a few times over the period of a week to get a feel for the story.  Younger children will learn key dialogue moments just from repetition.  Older kids might enjoy the task of adapting the story, and writing out the dialogue.  Ask the question, how can we act this out?  Brainstorm ideas together.

The next step is to act it out.  Pick characters.  Parents should definitely play roles too. If there are too many characters, have each actor play multiple roles.  If there aren’t enough characters in the story for your family, add some more.  Theatre teaches us to be team players and problem solvers.  How can everyone take part in the story?  Make sure to listen to your child’s ideas, and try them out.  You may have a budding director on your hands. Rehearse your story a few times.  Like anything else, the sillier you are by changing your voice, exaggerating your movements, the freer and exaggerated your child will be.  Theatre can teach us communication skills.  Ask questions like, “How can you use your voice to tell the audience about your character?” “How can we use your body to tell the audience what happened next?”

Now for the flourishes; dig though your closet to find something that signifies the character.  You don’t need to go overboard, use common items you can find around the house!  Set the stage.  How can you transform your living room rug into a duck pond?  You could even invite your friends and extended family to come watch the play in your living room!  Make posters and tickets!  Imagine how confident your child would be after putting on their own show for family, friends or neighbors.  After bowing to that applause they’re sure to be a few inches taller!

Cinderella Audience Reviews!

I had the pleasure of interviewing some young audience members as they were leaving Cinderella last Thursday.  The Dress Up Theatre was packed, but both Leo and Jai had front row seats on the bolsters!  Jai even got to go up on the stage when the Fairy God Mother (played by 11-year-old Bridget Fehrs) did magic tricks at the beginning of the play!

Jai sitting in the Emperor's throne.

Leo watched the play with his brother Sam and his Mom Eden. Jai watched the play with his Grandmother.  They were both eager to talk to me afterward and tell me what they thought!

You can listen to the full interview here.  Here are a few of my favorite parts:

Reba:  What did you think of the play?
Jai & Leo:  Good!!!!

Reba:  What was your favorite part?
Jai:  In the end.
Leo:  The end!

Reba:  Why the end?
Leo:  Because they married each other.

Leo enjoying a snack after the play.

Leo getting into the royal mood with a bag of jewels!

Reba:  What was your favorite costume?
Jai:  The Prince’s
Leo:  Cinderella’s!

Reba:  Why Cinderella’s?
Leo:  Because it was pretty.

I’ve seen Jai and his Grandmother at several plays and Leo and his brother Sam have even taken a Teensy Weensy Theatre Class with me.  It’s exciting to see young people engage with and enjoy theatre at an early age, a sign that they’ll value the arts for life!

Thanking the foundations that helped us put on “New Clothes!”

By now, we hope you’ve heard all about our ongoing shows in the Dress Up Theatre, Cinderella and The Emperor’s New Clothes. But have you heard of the New Clothes Collaboration?

Cast members of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” participate in a peer critique, while "Cinderella" musician Jeffrey Sheerer looks on.

When these two shows were selected many months ago, we thought of so many ways all kinds of artists in our community could make valuable contributions. Having professional musicians, costume designers and playwrights contribute their expertise would not only yield great shows on our stage, but would provide our young actors with a unique opportunity to explore their talents under the mentorship of working artists. We developed a proposal for the New Clothes Collaboration: pairing young actors with guest artists from Portland’s thriving theatre community to design, direct, score, rehearse and perform Cinderella and The Emperor’s New Clothes.

The "Cinderella" royals. Sebastian Grimm as Andre, Gabe Walker as Prince Louis and Elias Grimm as the King.

Thanks to the support of the Margaret E. Burnham Charitable Trust, the Morton-Kelly Charitable Trust and the Simmons Foundation, we were able to make this dream a reality! Our casts (all under fifteen years old!) have worked closely with director Claire Guyer, choreographer Gretchen Berg, costume designer Christina Klein, lighting designer Nicole Sirois and musicians Jeffrey Sheerer, Gregory Reed and Shawn Cole to bring scripts by Michele Livermore Wigton to life on our stage.

We’re so grateful for the generosity of the Burnham, Morton-Kelly and Simmons foundations for making this project possible. We’d also like to tip our hats to our show sponsors: the Neudek family (Debby, Tom and Alexandra); Andrucki & Mitchell Family Law of Lewiston; and Sudzie Autowash of Scarborough.

As anyone who has caught the shows can tell you, the New Clothes Collaboration yielded magical results!

Be sure to catch both shows, playing alternating weekends through March 21st. Shows are selling out, so click here to get your tickets in advance!

Sneak peek at Cinderella and The Emperor’s New Clothes: Sets!

If you’ve visited the Dress Up Theatre in the past few weeks, you’ve probably noticed that the familiar square stage has been replaced by some new sets and platforms of all shapes and sizes.  Chris Fitze, Exhibits and Operations Associate, and Shawn Cole, Exhibits and Operations Intern, have created these pieces for the upcoming productions of Cinderella and The Emperor’s New Clothes, running in February and March. (Get your tickets here!)

In addition to working on Exhibits and Operations at the Museum & Theatre, Chris Fitze has done behind-the-scenes work for local theatres. He’s been involved in the design, construction or installation of the sets for every onsite production since the Children’s Theatre merged with the Children’s Museum. I asked him a few questions about how these versatile sets are created, and he gave me some very enlightening answers!

Who comes up with the idea for the set?  Is it the playwright?  The director?  The people who build it?

Friday, 2/5: Chris and Reba (Theatre Artistic Director) try out the turntable that supports the rotating throne.

It’s a little of all three. Every playwright that writes a play has a setting in mind. Even if it’s a general as “the woods” or “in a house,” the playwright needs to know where the characters are, so she can know how they will interact in with their environment. Some playwrights will be very specific and even include a detailed drawing of the set!

The director, having read the play, will also come up with ideas for the set. Some directors may want to pick a different era that the play takes place in. Or they may want to use a particular style. At the Children’s Museum & Theatre, we meet early on with the director (usually before the play is even cast!) to talk about set design.

The people who build the set here at the Children’s Museum & Theatre have much more say in the overall design than at other theaters. Partly because the set needs to be built in such a way that it will hold up to the rigors of day-to-day activity at the Museum & Theatre, and partly because the people building the set probably helped to design it! Continue reading

Meet Claire, an actor in The Emperor’s New Clothes!

Claire has been acting in our plays since 2008 and she is so fun to work with. Seeing her grow through the years has been amazing and I asked her to share a little about her acting experience. Here’s what she had to say:

Claire, an actor in our Theatre productions

“Joining back in autumn of 2008, I acted in Raggedy Anne and Andy and Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine’s summer show, Tomato Plant Girl. Raggedy Anne and Andy was my first real theatre experience. I was, of course, very nervous when I went in to my audition. I was soothed by Reba’s calming manner and my audition began immediately. My mother met us after, and, my nerves returning, Reba led me upstairs. She saw my mom and broke into a jabber about scheduling, rehearsals, and show times. My mom looked at me. “Does this mean she’s in?” Beaming at me, Reba stated, “She’s in like Flynn.” I broke into a wide grin. Continue reading

Updated February Vacation Schedule

February vacation starts at the end of today! If you’re using the Kitetails Newsletter we sent in January to plan your February vacation week visits to the Museum & Theatre, there is a slight change in our schedule. We’ve added more programs throughout the week so you and your family can have the best experience possible. Here is our full planned schedule for February 13-21.

Custard the Dragon and his friends Blink, Ink and Mustard!

Saturday, February 13
11am: Valentine’s Day Card Making ♥
11:30am: Smart Shopping
1pm: Sowing Seeds: Planning and Plotting
2pm: Chinese New Year: Ribbon Dancing!
3pm: The Story of Istar
3:30pm: Pine Cone Bird Feeders

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Sunday, February 14
12:30pm: The Story of Istar
2pm: Big Messy Art: Valentine’s Day Cards ♥

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Monday, February 15
Open to Members: 9-10am Open to Public: 10am-5pm
10am: Soapy Snowmen
11:30am: Custard the Dragon Puppet Show ($5/members, $13/non-members*)
1:30pm: Tip-top hats!
3:30pm: This Little Piggy Saves Continue reading

Sneak Peek at The Emperor’s New Clothes!

When a new show is coming up in our Dress Up Theatre, I try not to let myself see too much of the rehearsals – I love to experience the show for the first time with a live audience full of families. However, I couldn’t resist sneaking down to the lower level for a quick peek at what the cast of The Emperor’s New Clothes has been up to.

The cast was bursting with energy, and I caught a couple of very funny scenes featuring the sneaky tricksters, the Emperor, the Empress and their court.

They were trying out their costumes for the first time, so I got a hint of what the production will be like, but the real magic will happen when lighting, sets, music, and audience are all in place. I’m looking forward to March 4th!

The Emperor and Empress address their court

The tricksters, Anna and Karl, come up with a plan to swindle their way into some money

Emperor Frederik and Empress Sophie

Stefan, the Imperial Chief of Staff, and Hans, the Imperial Speechwriter

Tickets for this show and Cinderella are on sale now! Call the front desk at 828-1234 x231 or click here to get your seats!